WASHINGTON - A week after holding a hearing in Fairbanks about global climate change, U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens joined with another senior senator to sponsor a bill designed to push research on weather and ways to reduce "greenhouse" gases.
Stevens, an Alaska Republican, cosponsored the bill with Sen. Robert Byrd, a West Virginia Democrat. The two recently traded places as chairman and ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Committee when the Senate shifted to Democratic control.
They said the bill would establish "a major research effort" to invent ways to reduce gas emissions from the burning of fuel. Many scientists say such gases have caused recent increases in the Earth's average temperature.
In the past, Stevens has declined to embrace assertions that global warming exists, preferring instead to describe climatic phenomena as "global change."
He told Alaska media last week that he remains cautious.
"Clearly the hearing that we held in Fairbanks demonstrated that there has been a more significant change in recent years in the Arctic than there has been in the rest of the globe," Stevens told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. "But there's also some indication that parts of the globe are having more severe cold temperatures than they had in the past."
"So I'm still not signed on in terms of saying it's global warming, per se," he said.
Byrd was less reserved.
"As one who has lived 83 years, I see changes taking place in our atmosphere and our weather patterns," he said. "The ice caps are diminishing. We can waste valuable time debating measurements, methodology, findings and conclusions, or we accept the simple reality that global warming is occurring."
In addition to doubling federal investment in energy technology designed to cut greenhouse gases, the Byrd-Stevens bill would require a long-term national strategy to "stabilize greenhouse gas levels without adversely impacting the economy." It also would increase spending on climate change research.
Sen. Joseph Lieberman, a Connecticut Democrat, praised the bill, which likely will be referred to the Government Affairs Committee that he chairs.
Lieberman focused, however, not on the legislation's research suggestions but rather on its call for a comprehensive national strategy. The bill was meant "to complement, not replace, other mitigation measures measures that in the end must include binding targets for emissions reductions," Lieberman said.
President George W. Bush on Tuesday endorsed the same priorities that Byrd and Stevens advance in their bill: more research into climate change and ways to reduce gases. However, Bush declined to endorse the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, an international treaty calling for mandatory carbon dioxide emission reductions that would apply first to industrialized nations.
The U.S. Senate has never approved the treaty, which the Clinton administration negotiated.
Lieberman said Tuesday that he was disappointed that Bush had failed to propose "meaningful action" in his speech.
"We already have thousands of pages of scientific evidence that confirm our planet is slowly overheating," Lieberman said. "We do not need just more studies."